There is something utterly ironical in this week’s case in front of the Supreme Court’s 11 judges.
The government is appealing against a High Court ruling that parliament, not the government, should trigger Article 50 - in other words that there needs to be parliamentary legislation first. So this government, allegedly committed to Brexit, in order to “return control from Brussels to Westminster”, had acted illegally in refusing to subject its policy to Westminster’s control.
What makes this even more farcical is that May’s case hinges on the so-called “royal prerogative” which is supposed to give her powers to by-pass Parliament on international issues.
Never mind that this “prerogative” dates back to before the English Revolution and was subsequently effectively repealed by the 1689 Bill of Rights. This Bill is still in force today and says: "the.. power of suspending of laws or the execution of laws by royal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal." Isn’t that crystal clear?
Not so for May, who tries to hide behind the “royal prerogative” to repeal the 1972 Act of Parliament whereby EU law is integrated into British law - which can only be done by new legislation. Apparently, May and her pro-Brexit Tories are living in a time warp, where the clock stopped ticking in the first half of the 17th century, before the English Revolution!
THEIR POLITICKING GOES ON
But what’s maybe even more ironical is that this court case won’t really change much. May has no reason to fear any serious opposition from MPs. Hasn’t Corbyn said that he wouldn’t put up any obstacles against her triggering the Brexit process? So May would inevitably win a vote in the Commons!
So why is she so stubbornly insisting on playing it alone? One reason is probably that, for electoral reasons, she doesn’t want to be indebted to Labour. And given her wafer-thin majority in the Commons, she would be dependent on Corbyn’s continuing willingness to endorse her policy.
But another reason, and possibly the main one, is that she does not want to highlight publicly the on-going divisions and factional in-fighting within her own party. Such a display of division would be even worse from an electoral point of view, but also for the credibility of her government.
Already, May is having huge difficulty in trying to keep the over-bidding of her pro-Brexit ministers under control. No sooner have her aides managed to get the media to announce a “united front” between David Davis and Philip Hammond, than Boris Johnson or Amber Rudd blow this apparent consensus with another of their blunders!
And what’s true of May’s ministers is even more true of her backbenchers. No wonder May is wary of exposing her policy to Commons’ scrutiny: it’s not hard to imagine the hysterical debates that would break out among Tory MPs!
THE REAL THREAT WE’LL NEED TO FIGHT OFF
By now, a lot has been said about the Brexit they have in store for us. We’ve had supporters of a “hard” and “soft” Brexit, whom May accused of being “too black and white”, adding that her agenda was a “grey” Brexit.
Then, last weekend, during a visit to the micro-state of Bahrain - a dictatorship and joint pawn of the US and Saudi Arabia - she said that her Brexit would be “red, white and blue.” Nothing to do with a hopeful rainbow, of course, but just another case of waving the Union Jack to rally Tory troops!
These are just empty words, of course. May herself doesn’t know where she’s heading, if only because it depends primarily on the goodwill of the EU, which has far more clout than little Britain.
But what we do know already, is that whatever its form, Brexit will be designed to preserve capitalist profits. Such was Hammond’s and Davis’ message to bankers last weekend, at the London Shard. Nissan has already won guarantees that the government will compensate any loss it might incur and so has Tata - and, who knows, probably many others, since these deals are concealed under “commercial confidentiality”!
But there won’t be any compensation for the losses of the working class - neither for rising prices due to the falling pound, nor for the cuts in public services and jobs which will be made to make up for Hammond’s ballooning deficit and the estimated £122bn cost of Brexit to public funds over 5 years!
Regardless of the form of Brexit, what we are facing, therefore, is the prospect of yet another wave of attacks against our jobs, wages and services.
The idea that Brexit could bring changes for the better was always a mirage, fuelled by the pro-Brexit politicians’ lies. But, by really using its collective strength to fight off the looming capitalist offensive, the working class could bring about real change. And this is what should be on our agenda!